Because the words are similar, you might be confused about the similarities and differences, and if you should be worried about them in your sunscreen. How do they differ? Should you avoid either or both?
Oxybenzone and benzene are completely different chemicals. For all it's issues, Oxybenzone IS approved by the FDA for usage in sunscreen. However, benzene, used to make many plastics and found in cigarette smoke, is even more toxic and is considered by the FDA a no-no in skincare.
Oxybenzone is an ingredient used in common sunscreens (although never in Waxhead Sunscreen). Benzene is a contaminant that can invade common sunscreens through suspect ingredient sourcing and lax machinery maintenance. At Waxhead, we have uncompromising standards for all our ingredient suppliers, each of which must regularly prove to us, through 3rd party testing, that benzene is not present, even in trace amounts.
Still have questions? Read on.
Oxybenzone is a widely used ingredient in American chemical-based sunscreens. It's found in roughly 65% of such sunscreens. Oxybenzone has been proven to be toxic to both human and marine biosystems.
Oxybenzone is a benzophenone derivative commonly used throughout the world to make sun-products with especially high sun protection factors (SPF). It belongs to a small group of UVA blocking agents that include methyl anthranilate and butylmethoxydibenzoyl-methane, the UVA sunscreen of choice in Europe.
Within seconds of application, oxybenzone penetrates the skin and enters the bloodstream. As a photocarcinogen that can attack DNA and increase the production of free radicals, it promotes the formation of cancerous cells. It’s considered a contributing factor in the ongoing increase of melanoma cases among chemical sunscreen users.
Research studies link higher concentrations of oxybenzone to various systemic disorders, including endometriosis in older women and lower birth weights in newborns. Studies also show it behaves similarly to the hormone estrogen, suggesting a link to breast cancer.
It’s also been linked to eczema, and it can trigger allergic skin reactions and hormone disruptions. Oxybenzone is known to interfere with cellular signaling, which can cause cell mutations and cell death. It is banned as an ingredient in sunscreen in Hawaii and several other informed jurisdictions through the world, mainly due to the harm it does to reefs and marine life.
Benzene is a light-yellow or colorless liquid chemical at room temperature. It has a sweet odor and is highly flammable. Benzene evaporates very quickly and dissolves only slightly in water. It is mostly used as a solvent in chemical and pharmaceutical industries and in gasoline.
It is made by both natural and human processes. It is a natural component of crude oil, which is the main source of benzene produced today. Other natural sources include gas emissions from volcanoes and forest fires.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists benzene as a "Known to be Human Carcinogen" since it is "known to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity from studies in humans.” Download the report here.
People are exposed to benzene mostly by breathing air that contains the chemical. Benzene is also found in glues, adhesives, cleaning products, and paint strippers. Benzene is widely used in the US, ranking in the top 20 chemicals for production volume.
Outdoor air contains low levels of benzene from secondhand tobacco smoke, gasoline fumes, motor vehicle exhaust, and industrial emissions. Indoor air generally contains higher levels of benzene than in outdoor air. Exposure to benzene increases the risk of developing leukemia and other blood disorders.
How to Avoid Oxybenzone and Benzene in Sunscreens
"People who are concerned about the safety of chemical sunscreens can opt to use mineral sunscreens. These we know are safe. This is something that is evidence-based." says Dr. Kanade Shinkai, a dermatologist with the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine.
All Waxhead Sunscreens use only non-nano Zinc Oxide as an active ingredient. We never use oxybenzone or benzene, or any other petrochemical. Waxhead sunscreen users never have to worry about Oxybenzone vs Benzene from our products.
The best sunscreen active ingredient, for both human and marine biosystems, is non-nano zinc oxide, and by a wide margin. It’s vital to read sunscreen labels (not just the marketing messages) and understand the ingredients used in sunscreen and skincare products.
1. Know your ingredients — Flip over your sunscreen and read the ingredients. We want everyone to know what good ingredients are, regardless of whether they use our products or not. Your health is worth it.
2. Buy safe sunscreen — Waxhead is dedicated to using only the healthiest, safest, most effective ingredients in our sunscreens. Shop Safe Sunscreen here.
3. Teach a friend — If you know someone who might still be buying sunscreen with questionable ingredients, please share this post with him/her.